tv Ben Rhodes The World as It Is CSPAN July 14, 2018 1:10pm-2:31pm EDT
i'm now reading his second book hit the refugees. it is remarkable books that capture the complexity of a refugees life but also refugees the end up in the united states as well as ones that go back. those are the two books that are front and center for meat right now. book tv wants to know what you're reading. good evening everybody welcome to politics and prose.
at large venues around town. and that number is probably increasing to maybe thousand per year this year because we have opened two new branches in dc one has been open since last october at the wharf in southwest. just for a sense of what we are having their on tuesday this coming week on wednesday of this coming week will be hosting dr. mona hana tiesha. she is going to be in conversation with her states house of representatives. and on tuesday this coming week we are finally opening the merck union market branch. one of the spaces down the block.
they would be in conversation with the washington post. who is the food editor there. discussing the new novel. it's about line. there will be wine there. two fantastic new novels. one called mad boy by nick arden. during the war of 1812. trying to break his solder out of prison. the other restless souls by dan sheehan. they are now staring down a road trip to an experimental ptsd clinic in california. and both of them are very funny. and then on friday we have two other really fun books this time about really out there music from the 1970s a critic starts.
and it looks at people like george clinton and david bowie and many more who incorporated the science fiction into their radical music and then also washington post reporter is there. and gives the history of his true passion which is progressive rock. tonight we are very thrilled to have all several hundred of you here tonight to support the new mmr. it will be roughly an hour long program. we are happy to have you take pictures without flash. please do tweet about the event if you can. in text how everything is amazing here. we don't want any sonic distractions because we are filming this for our youtube page. do check that out online.
they are filming for their book tv program and you don't want to be the one whose phone goes off on national television. also so that we can hear your questions during the question and answer portion there will be a standing microphone to my left. but when that time comes please do lineup at that microphone to ask the question to see if everybody can hear it later. it would be a big help to all of us if you can help by folding up chairs and leaning against something sturdy when everything is done. that could be the nearest bookcase or pillar. now onto the actual program. maybe it's a symptom of being in the midst of presidency. it seems to come with from within. i think we can sense that there is an appetite for a look. for the last executive branch operated. outside of words from the president himself. as a weighted as awaited as that from ben rhodes. it was described by his colleagues as having a mind meld with the president. he served as a speechwriter
for obama for the 2008 presidential campaign. a role that brought him to the forefront of foreign policy. the iran a nuclear deal. and the list goes on and on from there. he cofounded the committee. and of course he has written a book beside me the world as it is. the memoir of the obama white house. from within the obama presidency. but also from novelists like colin mccann who said it shakes us out of the rut of ordinary reception and manages to find hope. joining roads and conversations tonight is another one of the top policy thinkers. you may know him as editor in
chief of the atlantic. as a contributor for countless publications. from the washington post. as the author of 2006 prisoner. his experience working and a military prison. and his encounter with one prisoner he came to befriend. please join me in welcoming them. see my good evening. welcome everyone to politics and prose. we are going to try to cover
all of american foreign policy from 1999 in the first five minutes and then we will see what happens. just make it easy for you because you don't have any experience with public speaking or the media. i just wanted to start with literally the easiest question i can think of. and then move towards syria. the easiest question as this. what would have been the reaction if barack obama had saluted a north korean general just describe it in the luminous detail. what you think the reaction might have been. there was one time when we were traveling to saudi arabia where he went like this and that was for years treated as bowing there.
and giving away their dignity if they had saluted a north korean general he would've been detained upon and returned to the united states and sent to quintana mall. i probably would have been killed in the firing squad by the freedom caucus. i do have to say that they asked me what the most disturbing aspect is. the outright hypocrisy it's almost as if they are trying to find it seems to happen every day. and is very much in line with that. >> let me ask you about this. barack obama with you as a side is very early 20072008 the repeated controversies they carried forward into the first and second terms. president obama and then candidate obama said in a white it's okay to talk to
folks and hillary clinton sameness. so what's wrong with donald trump meeting with the leader of north korea. i don't think anything's wrong with that. i prefer diplomacy. it does matter how you do it. and just to make a few points about that. you have to prepare and i detail in the book that i met probably 20 times with alejandra castro before we put obama in the room. they had teed up exactly what we wanted to accomplish in that relationship. with iran we have probably hundreds of hours of meetings and situation rooms with a noble prize winning.
to know exactly what we wanted to get out of the iran deal. and what i've seen and the north korea talks as is they rushed to get to this spectacle of the have of state summit without knowing exactly what they wanted to accomplish without setting up an agenda. they conferred upon them them. in front of those. and in front of the whole world. they gave them the nuclear military exercises. her years we heard from the chinese and the north koreans that they wanted us to stop those. and in return all we get is a reaffirmation of the same confidence. under every administration since bill clinton. it's not that he's engaging and plummet see it said they didn't set it up right. they gave away too much at the front end.
and then lastly, we go out of our way to say that we still have differences with cuba. problems with the human rights records. the comments even making about he is beloved by his people and he is a strong leader today can be suggested that he wishes he could have that. it's hard to overstate the exec. how is every word that we say going to be treated by other countries. i knew anything barack obama said they would take out the best things. i can guarantee that they would be running on the loop through their own people. they are respected. you are describing a tragedy actually. they would use the president's words to actually cement and
place the rule of this dictator. they will be playing back the tape of trump saying those things. it brings me to an interesting question. it's a little bit of a meta- question. in a way you say that premature visit or meeting between the u.s. president and a dictator. i'm not asking this in a snarky way. it's kind of a diminished coin in a kind of way. tim is now assumed the statue of both consolidated the nuclear weapons program and getting that with the video the president of the met states.
build on sanctions and go around the world and isolate korea. if they see trump care closing up to kim like this. that effort well now not move forward. why would you break diplomatic relations in north korea. if you're china you're probably thinking i don't really need to enforce the sanctions quite as tightly as i was. now i see he's been embraced by the american president. i think we will actually see real-world consequences on the ability to apply pressure. but one more question on this. how do you explain how do you explain the fact that the republicans name a whole bunch of that. who would ride president obama
or sometimes just there. with miscues. how do we have that. they simply don't see that donald trump's behavior is often a character of what his behavior was. it's just a level of hyper part of the main criticism as you remember as he alienates the allies. too eager to talk to the dictators. we didn't do anything right the last week in that regard. i think you just head to talk it up. the fact that there. i walk through this in the book. anything that we did and it
happened while we were in office by the way. they would be for something until we did it. they were full with intervention. and they were full -- for intervention in syria. it was already taking root while we were in office. it takes an issue that used to be somewhat distinct from some of the other political issues in our country. and it's really destructive and frankly it's probably reoriented. there is no actual trump doctrine yet. that was not me who coined it. it's a big difference.
i'm not in the same because we are on c-span. there are couple of points in which and i know that most people from the obama era disagree with this analysis. it is to say the following. barack obama was not very happy with nato allies and their inability and willingness to pay their fair share and even said to me on a couple of occasions and their willingness to pay up. he does, did really believe that by talking to your adversaries you would actually make things better. do you see any sort of continuum in the way that donald trump is approaching the way from what barack obama did. what i do see to answer the
spirit of your question. there were similar frustrations that they both express. we had been overextended in the middle east. but that like diagnosis led to different things. in the sense that obama to ramp up our diplomatic engagement around the world to try to enlist allies. like the iran deal or the paris claimant accord to climate accord to get more stakeholders in the international system. he modeled his foreign-policy to broaden the number of countries that were there.
his reaction to the same diagnosis as we are get a basically go it alone america first. we will break with our allies we are to try to make demands as everybody. in making this demands. i think while they may have expressed similar frustrations that many americans might tell us about the foreign-policy. the conclusion they drew from those critiques were entirely different. >> at school all the way back and then move forward up to some of the big controversies of the obama era. let's talk about the first time you met. when you joined with him. did you ever think that he would win? >> i did. my wife is here somewhere.
it was interesting because i described how i was 29 years old. and one of the things i wanted to do in the book was take advantage of the fact that i was relatively normal person and i didn't come in with a huge pedigree. i was so nervous the person i met him that i could barely speak. but i wanted to get onto his campaign. it was a different kind of politicians. he had been against the iraq war. i was ready to do whatever i could to work my way into this campaign. i got offered a job on the obama campaign as a speech writer. and i came home and told my now wife. then girlfriend and she was a little annoyed that i was moving to chicago. at least they were be back on
february 5. i tried to do that. it was kind of magic lightning and a bottle feeling to that await campaign. even when we were at our for this behind 20 points in the poll. everybody in that room believed that we were going to win. and part of that was youthful idealism. they made sure that we thought that. i have those misplaced certainty that this was going to work out. so take us forward. how does a person know this. how does a person go from anonymous aid to indispensable not just speech writer to
indispensable speech writer to indispensable advisor. how does that just carry through that. i wasn't trying to do that. if i had been trying to have that type of assent i don't think that would've happened. i basically did whatever they needed me to do the first couple of years in the campaign white house. i have a certain policy expertise. and that i was pitching and on. and i was kind of this utility player. i also though it was an interesting realization when i head in the white house. because i was a speech writer that's what you have to try to do.
if to get inside the have of the people you're writing the speech for. i four. i tried spent a lot of times trying to understand that. what he wanted to say and do. when you come into government and you do realize there's actually not a lot of people who are trying to do that. different government agencies have their own institutional biases. barack obama didn't have a lot of people around him. he was only in washington for four years before he was president. .. ..
2001s, i had to reckon with the fact that in the first several years we were in office, i saw our military being highly capable of take out a terrorist network or even osama bin laden in pakistan, but being unable to kind of shape events inside of other countries, and obvious example people point is to libya an intervention i supported where obviously after the fall of gadhafi things went wrong. but one that gets less attention is afghanistan. we spent a lot of time deseining the surge, kind of the high-water mark of counterinsurgency theory which was the believe we could with our military improve the lives of people. inside of countries like iraq and afghanistan, and you couldn't help but reckon with the fact that for all our military might, we could not kind of put together broken places. and so i had to confront the
reality that these -- i describe on syria, we'll get to -- sitting there after living the example of afghanistan and iraq and libya, still arguing for intervention in syria, and i would say we could blow up the runways and obama would say, what happens the next day when they rebuild the runways this, point if you want to change things we would have to be all the way in, and frankly the track record of our capacity to resolve the civil war was limited. so it was part barack and some sticker. i redirect it my idealism, so feeling frustration. when i turned to cuba and vietnam and it wasn't that i changed his mind but i think i
said, we need to pay attention. we need to find affirmative things to do in the world, that we -- >> not in the immediate. >> -- no the middle east. >> we had to carve out time and you need to make cuba apriority. i know it's not going to naturally be on your to-do list and let me do this. think, i hope, that what i was able to do is get him to kind of broaden somewhat the an be tour -- aperture of what i he folked on. >> you didn't want to go to broken places and try to fission them. that was the george w. bush and don't work but undergirding the thinking but the iran deal was this motion that if we just open it up here, that they give us some concessions of nuclear we'll give them understanding and openness.
>> the nuclear deal to prevent iraq from getting a nuclear weapon. trying to solve a distinct problem. not but a transforming iran, about keeping a bad regime from getting nuclear weapons. that said, i think we did have a feeling it was more likely that iran could evolve in a different direction if you had a nuclear deal, but you have 10 or 15 year proposition, which we're not going to test now because trump has scrapped the iran deal. don't think anything you can -- i don't want to put words in your mouth but we did not think
that we did an iran deal and a year or two later they'd be reordered in the nature of the regime. i believe, one, we keep them from getting a nuclear weapon, and, two, in this 10 or 15 year period before the sunset periods it would be nor like through that iran could evolve in a different direction. the supreme leader is going to die. they're going to have changes within their leadership in that time period, and i believe what trump did is going to make it more likely that they don't move in a different direction than the iran deal. >> late stay on this idealism, realism split, because there was a hope, not only with iran, i think in interest -- you're correct, obama was cal baited in the way he talked about the possible outcomes of iran. never said publicly this is going to hope -- change and become western democrat and so on. but with cuba, with burma and
vietnam, these countries -- because of actions taken by your administration, these countries have better relations with the united states than they had previously. but they haven't changed. there was a thought on your part, on some other people's part in the administration, that the cuba opening would lead to some level of liberalization, burma has gone backwards. vietnam is a one party communityist state. how do you square those openings. in iran you were trying to make -- you were trying to remove the nuclear threat from the northeast. what -- middle east. >> what am i missing. >> you're right, burma and vietnam -- i think cuba was -- has been changed. i really think that the difference in cuba from 2013 to
2017, by cuban standards, was enormous. by u.s. standards, it wasn't. we want -- >> you get two eggs a week now. >> there was internet access and more connectivity to the rest of the world, and that is bringing -- far more self-employed cubans. one of the interesting things in our strategy was a lot of it had to do with the fact there was this private sector that went from 10% of cubans being self-employed to a third of cubans being self-employed and that matters. remember -- i won't use the language fully because of our rule here, but i remember one person explained to me the difference, which was cuban entrepreneur saying to him, i used to work for the state and when someone came and knocked on me door and says you have to question community yeast party
rally tomorrow, would wall low and go tho chuist party'lly and now i have me on business and someone knocks on my door ask says you have to be he communitiest rally to tomorrow, it's like, blank you, i'm busy. people were feeling more empowered and connected to the world. they did -- even in the current context with trump pulling things back, i think it's still going to lead to more liberalization of cuba than if we kennedy the embargo in place. americans are so impatient. we announce the opening of cuba on december 17, 2014. in my wildest dreams would not have thought cuba would somehow be a deckcracy democracy in any way, shape or form within five years or even ten but more open, the lives of the could be ban people would be better. there way have more access to
information and you would begin an evolution in other inside of. so part of the -- more patience. burma is more complicate because on the one hand you did have significant transformation in their politics. they there was a democratic election and she won but a partial transition, the mail tear was still in control of the military and she is prevented from control of the military. uncomfortable reality of burma is that more openness, the -- what is being -- the tragedy that has taken place, particularly last year, reflects the views of the people of that country, which is a terrible thing to think about, but that -- so the military, i
think, chose to demagogue -- i think i see this as trends robbed the world -- the military being on its back foot politically, says the one thing we can do is popular is target a muslim minority ethnic group, and she can't stop us, and so there i -- what i would have liked to have seen and hopes we would have done if we were still in government, is apply a lot more pressure on them once they started down the road with. i think in all these cases, if you're propoeting democratization, particularly in countries that don't have any tradition of it or any institutions ready to transform themselves in a short period of time. you have to be willing to stick with the policy of engagement over time. >> let's talk about syria for a
minute. there's a short-hand that some of us use to describe the foreign policies the two previous administrations, the george w. bush and barack obama, and it goes a little -- goes like this. if the tragedy of the george w. bush administration was in overreaction to a set of events in he middle east, the tragedy of the obama administration could be its provisional right now -- could be unreaction- -- underreaction to a set of events, particular he the cataclysm of syria. your administration spent the last couple of years of obama's second term trying not to get on what he called openly the slippery slope. you really do believe that american intervention at any level would have made things worse for the syrian people than they are today? >> well, one thing i try to look
up in the book is this question has been so boiled down in washington to the basic one episode of the redline, and what i look back on is -- and reference in the book -- in 2011-2012, before the cries became a fractious civil war with foreign powers involved and proxies proxies and sectarian dimensions, did we mace window where some type of more aggressive diplomatic issue in cif do have forestall some of the human toll we have seen. so, could we have been more aggressively engaged to try to forestall the onset of civil war. one thing i had to wrestle with because is was so directly involved it in, was when we called for assad to go, too
optimistic that it was inevitable we fall? we all wanted assad to go. he is an odious tyrant and none of us in this room would believe he should be the leader of syria but might eave foreclosed a diplomatic option by calling for him to good at that point, and could we have at least trade to pursue some diplomacy. >> there's a moment, and president obama said this frequently. he said, if it would be foolish or naive to believe a -- this is the very early days of the syrian revolution -- a group of farmers and carpenters and dentes would overthrow an iranian backed, russian-backed, autocratic regime and the fatalism set in early. i call it fatalism because of course no revolution starts with the second airborne. revolution starts small and they grow bigger, especially if
they're watered. what explains his pivot away from the middle east in such a concert way by that centered. >> well, first of all, i tried to describe -- the question of do you provide arms and military support to the syrian opposition. as that option was being developed in 2012 and ultimately agreed it in 2013 -- the people proposing it were very clear this was not going to win the -- the purpose of that was not to win the civil war. everybody knew that russia and iran would put in much more heavy weapons than we could. i was to get relationship is with the opposition to make them more relevant on the battlefield and that might help in a diplomatic process. there was also an absurdity that i tried to draw out of the book to that time period, because you're in these meetings, described the deputies committee and principles committee meets,
the possession policymakers, you go -- >> used to function. >> used to function, yeah. and you have multiple issue owns the agenda and there was this issue in late '12 of providing military support to the syrian opposition, and i was also an item to designate al nusra as a terrorist organization, and it's an element of the syrian opposition that is the best fighting force in the syrian opposition, and it spoke to he -- schizophrenia of the american foreign policy. we will designate them as terrorists but don't like iran and assad so we want to provide military support to people but they're the same people. so the complexity in syria was constantly there from the very beginning. there wasn't like a simple -- it wasn't one army to support that was absent of extremists, that
could be easily provided with the type of support that would allow them to win, and i think what obama came to wrestle with is -- i say in the book where when i was still very active but a syria and i had a bunch of journalists in who were foreign correspondents from the mideast to give him a more alarmist view of what was happening in syria, thinking that might compel him to act.ment he wanted different voices and i brought in these people and they painted a dire picture of syria, so complicate. many different forces on the ground, the iranians and russians involved about the quit tarry and the turks and everybody thought the u.s. should be doing more and i saw him thinking that now he is really go to get it, we have to do more. he took exactly the opposite message, which is we can't fix this place, and so he look at
the complexity and thought, if we go to war in syria, we'll be just one more army in this civil war unless we are willing to remove assad ourselves. if we removed him it would be the same civil war with us owning him. >> iraq again. >> that would legitimately his view. >> one more question before we go to questions from y'all. there's a very, very interesting chapter in your book about race and president obama. i don't want to highlight it too much. people should read it for themselves. but i'm under the impression that this is the most frank discussion by an intimate of president obama, a close aide or president obama, how he really felt about his role as the first african-american president, and
it's interesting to rationed obviously, now in a period of let's call it racial reaction. talk about that a little bit. what you convey in broad strokes is that president obama was not as unaware of white perceptions of him as he made it out to be publicly. is that a fair -- >> yeah. i kind of describe in the book, and i really didn't mean it to be a pun, but -- >> i remember the pun. >> basically racism was like white noise to news that we -- it was everpresent so omni present for all the eight years that not like we talk about it but it would come out in these moments where we'd be prepping him for an interview or press conference say you may be asked some of the opposition view is
motivate by race and he would bee like, yes, of course it is. next question and he wouldn't say that publicly -- >> what would he say when he was asked possibly. >> different factors and -- in part because -- well, another one, how do we reduce tensions around "black lives matter" and police -- and he would say, i'll say, cops suck, stop shooting on our black folks. >> why wouldn't he say that? >> i thick it's a couple of things. one, i think he learned early in his presidency that if he -- the skipgate thing was much more impactful than people know he's asked about what do you think about probably the preeminent african-american american in the country being arrested in his
house. he said it was stupid. the blowback was so insane and people were so excited to be talking about race on cable television and it was multiple days of people going back and forth and fox going into hit stair ya and then we -- its his stare yeah and then this absurd summit where gates has a beer with the economy, and he was trying to fix the economy. he was like i can't do this every couple weeks. i'm trying to get some -- trying to get us out of a financial crisis, trying to get it out of some wars. can't afford this spectacle, i think just a belief that he -- it was difficult for him to engage these issues in a kind of raw way without it becoming trivialized and kind of the fun house mr. recoveries politics. he was very angry but the birther movement, and serious he had to release his birth
certificate but wanted to put that behind him. didn't want to stir the pot. what he was most angry gout it was cable television who gave so much air time to the birther movement and led to the election of donald trump, i would argue. he -- i describe it is he wad a jackie robinson ethought, i'm the first african-american to do this so i just have to do this job, twice as good as, like, a white person would have to, and i have to take all this stuff and keep my head down. late in his presidency he found new ways to talk about this. look at the speech of charleston, went into a prison, his efforts in criminal justice reform. he found a voice to talk about these things the year or two that was different, and part of it was i think experience and part of is was we don't have the financial crisis anymore. >> who was more surprised by donald trump's election, president barack
obama, michelle obama or you. >> i was more surprised. >> they were not surprised. >> no. the i think they war little surprised. i think that, like -- i tried to be candid net book. was white people who thought that barack obama's lex would transform race in america, not largely african-american people. certainly not the obamas. they never believed that because they've lived the experience of being african-american in this country. so he was far mow acutely aware of racism in this country than i was, and far more aware of the force that might lead to trumpism. i remember -- well, i just -- i remember some anecdotes of hearings where i was at kind of events in washington, casual
racism that shocked me, but it wouldn't shock him at all if that happened. so i think what i came to see when i became closer and closer to him is there's an understanding of the omni presence of racism and american society that i, as a white person, didn't fully appreciate until i worked for the first african-american president. >> whoa don't we start taking some questions. just one mic? and please answer ask you question in the form of a question. >> definitely a question. unfortunately a very narrow one. i wanted to turn to syria on the narrow question that i've often wondered about, maybe not too important but late in the obama years, and during their earlier part of hillary clinton's campaign, one of the -- when
asked what the differences would be in her approach to syria, compared to the president's, her answer was, well, for example, i would put in a no-fly zone. enforce a no-fly zone, and so my question is, is that just too simplistic and what was obama's feeling but that and is it -- have any merit whatsoever? i don't know how much traction she get on that. it was a small point. i'd like to know what you think. >> well, the reality is, a no-fly zone is an option that people were recommending but our own military was consistently very negative on that, because essentially to actually set up a no-fly zone, you would have to destroy all of syria's air defenses, including russian air defenses and have to go to war with assad, and then you be flying planes and they could still be killing people on the
ground. so it was much more complicated thing to do. and it wasn't going to fully stop the killings you were trying to stop. until i think -- in his mind, first of all, never -- the military consistently would say this not a viable option. if we are doing the no-fly zone we're going into an all-out war with syria. what with have to do would mean bombing syrian, russian and iranian personnel and hardware on the ground, and then even after we did that we couldn't guarantee they wouldn't just keep killing civilians through other means on the ground. so, i think obama thought it was -- just wasn't a viable military option. >> you mentioned in the book, in the interview, the second term you were looking for projects to
take on. i'm curious if you were in a similar position again the next democratic president that you had a job and you were given free rein and could pick projects you could take on, what would those be? and my question question is it says in the book you like "entourage" the tv show, and why? >> some people thought obama liking the macklemore thrift shop was more serious to take the second question first, to be honest with you, if you're in a job like i had, there is a certain escapism that you're looking for in you're entertainment. more mindless it is, the more it might be what you're looking for at 10:30 on a wednesday night when you just spent, like, 15 hours dealing with the most awful stuff in the world. i was surprised that david
cameron liked onat the rouge and that what i head the conversation with him about. >> college out of a hole, but let me -- one second. i believe that if you take -- one thing that was interesting about paris, it was the first agreement that was that global, that you had literally 200 countries, the whole world involved and there are other issues that would benefit from that type of global agreement. so, some -- just to name a couple, health, dealing with
pandemics. there's an architecture to set up to establish that is truly global that could save in the long run millions of line if you could replication the type of global coalition and arrangement and information sharing that we developed in paris agreement, related to global health security, that's one that comes to me off the top of my head. think there's a similar effort we're trying to get at late in the administration around refugee resettlement, to deal with refugee crises where it's not sos a hock -- so ad hoc and you have countries bearing an enormous amount of the burden. then i think politically, i still feel like the united states -- the region i was most interested in was southeast asia
and i feel like there is a lot of room to try to significantly enhance the integrate between the united states and the countries and the cooperation of the united states in southeast asia so a region of the world i would like to us try to approach, again, with not an individual country eye but kind of a regional mindset. but the other key thing here is that you have to be on on opportunistic, late in our energies, sri lanka had an interesting election and a democratic transition and i with had more time we might have tried to lean into getting a more engagement with sri lanka and then cubs like that are important for values and china is trying to vacuum up huge part of the world in their sphere of influence.
and so i think you look opportunistically and try to find those places where there's an elect that break this right way or there's a movement that is getting momentum, and on an individual country basis you try to focus some attention you might not otherwise have out of the white house. >> what would you make of the sonic attacks happening in our diplomats in cuba and china and what are the motivations for whoever is person straight those attacks? well, i think in cuba, i just do not see any way that the cube began government is behind those a -- cuban government is behind those attacks. learned about these months after i lefter the administration, this starts around the transition. the cubans, as i described, were friend net include trying to do anything they could do to preserve their relationship with us. signing agreements that had been stalled, business deals. went down there multiple times,
and at the same time we made major agreement on migration and everything they were doing try to preserve our relationship and they would order some operation that i would know would blow up -- >> who is doing it. >> i think it's the russians. i think it's -- >> what bit the canadians? [laughter] >> just a small -- i hod thought based on nothing other than my intuition that the russians working with some cubans. there are people in cuba who hated the opening with the united states -- could be doing that. describe in the book a couple of times i was trailed by russian spies, when i was negotiate with the cubans. very diz spar experience in a toronto hotel and people walked up to me, looked wearing tattoos and weird clogs and took out an
aniphone and tike my pictures and the russians wanted to us know they were watching. so whatever is doing it in cuba wants to break the u.s. cuban relationship and on the list of countries that want to do that i put the russians at the top. that doesn't preclude that some cubanss might be involved. when it happened in china, then that made me think, this could also be somebody surveillance technology that has gone terribly wrong. in other words, somebody might have some weird -- i don't know if it's sonic or whatever -- surveillance capability they're trying to point another our diplomats and it's causing these health effects because maybe somebody, russia or china -- is doing that in china as well. so, there's -- it's now out of the realm that nobody is doing this intentionally. might be a secondary effect of some surveillance tick technology. >> obviously you're really
defined by the obama's breakthroughs in cuba and iran and they're historic, but the u.s. has been really at war in the middle east for most of my adult life and that didn't change under obama and i wonder if you see a tension between those two things and the second point being whatweight to due gee to cob instructive u.s. engage independent the region, presumably after trump is gone. but anyway. >> first of all to try to -- i believe that we should have done more to try to bring about some closure to the wars. to me, we should not be in afghanistan. i don't know what we're accomplishing in afghanistan. and i wish we ended the war by the end of our administration. i don't think we're making it better. every time this argument would come in the situation room it would be if we leave it will get worse. well, we're staying and it's getting worse and we have been
there for 15 years now, and at what -- >> if you leave, don't you leave it open for isis and al qaeda to come back in and repeat the cycle. >> we have the capacity -- what our military can do is take out a troy terrorist safe haven. our very presence in afghanistan has created a distorted economy, has clearly not disenincentivized people from joining the taliban, has created some dependency among the afghan goss its not healthy. lounge is hong luff, 20 years, 25 years? i think that it's not healthy for democracy to fight a war for 15 or 20 years where we're now fighting a war -- if i told you in 2002 when we went into afghanistan that in 2018, we'd still be fighting a war in afghanistan, other on the osama bin laden is dead, and al qaeda
basically doesn't exist anymore, certainly not in my way, shape or form related to how the used to, you would think that was strength -- strange. i have to hold notifies snared put forward and i think we could have done more to disentangle ourselves. the main recent whyes people ski more risk, candidly, politically, that if you leave, things go wrong and if you stay, things go wrong. in terms of the next administration, who knows. it's hard -- i don't know what the middle east will look like in two and a half years. i'm not dire. >> you no who the next administration will be. >> i think, very quickly, and jeffrey has heard me say this, this complete mortgaging off our foreign policy to the saudis and the emiratis and the netanyahu government, i don't think is going to be in our interest, so
that makes me pessimistic about things getting better in the next two and a half years. >> i bear the news we have time for the next three questions and then -- >> do we have any women who can ask questions? [applause] >> mine is closer to home. thank you both for bringing up the subject of race because it has always been the elephant in the room and you are absolutely right, we african-americans knew trump could be elected because we have lived it since the founding of the country. i want to ask you, were you there, did you participate in the speech around at the airjeremiah wright controversy and the emanuel church and the massacre in charleston, how much was the president himself, and finally, he run and win in 2020? >> trust me, it's very strange to go broad because people don't understand that. in other countries they can
like, i isn't obama going to run in 2020? and i have to explain the constitution. the honest truth and this is not -- the three speeches that obama really wrote himself in the ten year is worked for him were the two you cited and nobel peace bright speech. there were drafts prepared which he ignored and all three of the drafts he we wrote by hand and then basically the fungs of us speech writers became typing them up. i remember being on the campaign and signature with john favreau when he got back this voluminous handwritten stuff and i'm reading this and thinking i've never read a political speech like this by an american politician and i had almost chills, knowing what was coming. but the reason that those -- we could not have written those for him. the two you cite were just so personal that we could -- we put
some nice language -- i think could see the farve row in the -- now, good stuff but the meat of that speech is entirely barack obama. >> thank you very much. he's been here to p & p a few times. >> oh, yeah. >> supports independent book stores. >> so, you worked for president who kind of particularly took the moral and the philosophical weigh to massive decisions and trade to work through them, and that kind of lends itself maybe to a more idealistic or m value-driven foreign policy as opposed to maybe one that starts with this realist compromise so when you kind of leave the administration do you see that as a viable kind of approach to foreign policy and dose that
require a unique kind of philosophical-like leader. >> what was kind of radical but a obama is that he was profoundly idealistic and motivates by a sense of universal human rights in a very different way that american presidents usually are. for him, that manifested in everything from how we treat other countries with a certain kind of respect, how we try to engage other countries in different ways, how we try speak to publics and not just leaders. it wasn't just the kind of -- we use these values as the justification for our military interventions or our maybe correct pressure on other countries. it was the -- really taking it
as, these are universal values that america promotes, not just american values we try to impose. so a different lens, and so sometimes people felt like he wasn't -- i mean, i remember we used to talk to some people who were about advocates for democracy, and i would say to them, these programs that obama does to empower and connect young leaders across the worlds in africa and southeast asia in particular, are profoundly subversesive programs. they're basically creating a civil society in places where there can't be one through the geist of these efforts and he was promoting those val news nontraditional ways that i think what made him unique is he was u.s. president who saw people. he saw individuals in these countries. he saw young people in laos and nigeria and in ethiopia, and
people felt seen by him and so that to me was -- i end the become on this hopeful not that what is the impact he has had on the lives of billions of potential e people around the world. how has he potentially changed their own conception they can change things and it's 20-34 years from now how has he inspired people in ways that, say, john kennedy inspired people in his brief time in office. so, it was a different way of promoting values. think that everybody does it -- authenticity i the most important thing i believe a political leader can have, and so no one will do it just like obama and my help is whoever comes next that promotes human rising will do it anywhere the own way.
that's the only way that it's ultimately going to be effective and not ring hollow and people and we'll have ahigher bar to clear because american lost currency that we had to promote civil right under this administration. the next american who does its has to be really authentic so its doesn't bounce off the years people they're trying to reach. >> last questions here. >> thank you. so we have heard you talk about this on how the department of state is being decimated not only from the top up and from the bottom now, so internships are not being concerted and students like myself are unable to get cleaners to participate in summer internships. what advice do you have for individuals interested in working towards american diplomacy to advance their own professional development and noting being disappoint by what
this administration is doing to the department. >> very quickly, one, people should sill try to do in the foreign service because frankly if you join now you'll just be kind of beginning to rise through the ranks, hopefully if there's a new administration. so still horrible. number work i believe -- that's stir viable. number, who if you feel you can work for this administration there's a vast set of opportunities for international ngos. there are many ways into the world of essentially promoting values you care about. again, international ngos, the u.n. systems. a lot of need for go, young talents. i'd like to see in the next administration come in and deep lie prioritize this from the beginning, maybe grant amnesty for people who left to dom back in spend money and time on recruisement and trying to rebuild the apparatus of our diplomacy because we lost, like, thousand once years of experience and at the same time
depryor tiesed bringing -- deprioritized and bringing in young people and people don't appreciate the profound impact on us, that should be the top priority of the next secretary of states of the next president if it doesn't happen now. >> back to the election a little bit. so, timothy snyder says that russian basically won cyberwarfare and the obama administration's reaction during that time was a bit sheepish-look they didn't go full throttle on attacking russia back. can you talk about the deliberation of treating this as a political issue versus a warfare issue and also what could have been done differently maybe to make americans more aware what was going on at the time. >> i think that mistake actually is that we did treat it as a cyber war when it n fact it was an information war, and so what i found fault with what we did is if you even look at the statement of the intelligence
community in october before the election and the focus was on the cyberattacks, hacking of the dny lynx e-mails and the nexus of wikileaks, and we did not do much at all to spotlight the fake news and the information warfare waged by the same capable is saw russia developed in ukraine, they were now applying to the united states. raise this -- describe raising this with president obama and him saying the people -- number one issue have warned people and they should have enough information that russia is meddling but number two he people consuming stories but hillary clinton being on death's door or some madeup story about corruption that were produces by russians, first of all we couldn't become the editor in chief of people's facebook news feed. we didn't have a tool to separate out fake news from real news and if we started to people
if you're league tower ifire bit russian, people consuming that would be least inclined to listen to barack obama. if you're searching out on your yet feed -- the kind of person that will get that stuff on your facebook feed you probably think barack obama is like the anti-christ. so that's not to say -- that was his belief. i think that we again could have done more to spotlight the information piece beyond the cyber piece. knowing we did not have many tools. we don't have an able to stop that from happening. we don't have an ability in real-time to say what is fake news and what instant. going forward i think that merits a much more aggressive effort to be able to identify what is fake news to work with technology companies, to deal with this in a rational way and i don't think that's happening.
>> i understand when you were younger you were interested in being a novelist and creative writing. i wondering, after such a long period of time in an office that is such hot bed of pressure and constantly working under emergency situations, how have your understandings of human beings and human psyches shifted and how would that interpret or maybe ad to -- add to any future novels you would write. >> that's the best question i've gotten. i am much more pessimistic -- let's just take the ten-year time frame of the book -- much more pessimistic about systems than ten years ago. our politics, our government, our media, not our government, but basically, like, i found myself feeling like the systems i was part of or that were
around me, i wish they functioned better, and now they seem just outright dystopia. at the same time i actually -- not just saying the -- found myself more optimistic about individual people i meet. whether in tattoos or around the world, gait opportunity to got the opportunity to make an amazing group of people, people who a had every reason to give up -- i remember going to laos and meet something young people who literally live in communities covered with american cluster munitions and they're wanting to come to the united states to meet americans and wanting to build a relationship with the united states, and grateful we're provide situation stance to clean up the bombs we dropped 40 years ago and thinking there's a capacity for forgiveness here that i wish i had more of in my own life.
and so in a strange way, the experience of the ten years left me, again, like more interested in individual people and less hopeful or optimistic about the institutions that rep those people, and frankly if we can narrow the distance between, like, actual people and the representatives in government and the institutions that either govern them or entering a with them, we would all be entitier off and that is like the biggest challenge for our politics, how does politics -- obama trade to do this when he succeeded it was because he did this and when he failed it because he couldn't -- politics arrested the better aspect of individuals we would be in a much better situation.
so if i wrote a novel, how are individuals navigating a world in which they're not well-presented by their institutions and how does that change. >> thank you, ben. thank you, everyone. [applause] >> this weekends on "after words." amanda carpenter, a former center staffer for ted cruz and jim demeant argues that president trump is using gaslighting strategies to manipulate the american people and takes any new york daily news columnist. georgetown university professor michael eric dyson recounts the meet between attorney general robert f. kennedy and james baldwin in 1963s that opened up
a discussion on civil rights and race relations. and seymour hurt talks but his life in juniorism. a few of the programs on booktv. you can get upit updatesdates ad more at book therefore on facebook, twitter and instagram. >> i just cringe every time the secret service gets bad publicity and sometimes somebody screws up and they deserve it, but 99% of the time they get up every day and go about their business and i watch them and i'm not as high value target as i used to be. but i watch these men and women, day in and day out, and i follow my routines and try to stay busy and try to do things, work
themselves, force themselves to concentrate and imagine what they have to be on the alert for. what they might have to do if something bad goes wrong. and when i was president, i remember when bin laden put out a fatwah on me and there was a serious out there three we be attack in pakistan or bangladesh, it was awful, and i said, we went in an unmarked plane in a bangladesh and i said i don't want anybody with young children going with me. but the sad thing was, there were people even younger going, and not -- used to take it for granted that nobody will try kill the president or nothing terrible will happen, but this is in kind of a love letter to at the secret service and anybody like you that was ever around them, i think pretty much feel the way i do.
>> they are remarkable. it's terrific that you shine a light on that in this book. and yet, it's not perfect. the president is at some risk, and i have to say, ridden around in those convoys, it's to me mind, highly plausible. it could actually happen and it's a tribute -- >> anything that happens in the book, as i said, whether it's this very dramatic potential for a cyber attack or an attack on a motorcade, if it happened, this is the way it could happen which i think makes everything particularly interesting and i think that's why the reviews and -- it's interesting because we talked to authors, lee child last night, and he gave us a really terrific -- wonderful guy, came all the way from
wyoming to see us last night, but he said when he got the book, he's like, jesus, what if i don't like it? i he liked it. thank god. so, let's talk about the threats. that's -- many ways the character is phenomenal. the plot is eye-popping and mr. president, you worked very hard to get the terrorist threat right and if you could tell folk e folks folks who haven't read , what this threat and why and how -- >> it's a cyberthreat and as i said for reasons do the most sweeping cyber attack launched on the united states that would basically take down everything and the backup systems. and i wanted to do it because, first, this is a matter of plot, it would be hard, if you read
it, hard to justify the president going to missing except under the circumstances and n which he boots the secret service for a few hours, which drives them nuts, as you'll see. for good reasons. and secondly, think it's underappreciated still. you see all this coverage on russian hacking and how upset people are, and it's been my experience, depends almost entirely on how they voted. and they act like, even a lot of people that voted for hillary say, the economy is working and the country didn't fall, why should i hear about is in? you should care a lot. >> you can watch dismiss other programs online at booktv.org. >> book tv recently visit capitol hill to ask members of congress what they're reading this summer. >> i'm reading everything.
some people go to psychiatrists. read for therapy. so, this weekend, for instance, i read michael's become on privacy which is very good and is guiding me on privacy legislation and i read romance, spry supply thrillers. ... you learn a lot about it. in the iran nuclear deal and reading one of the thrillers. this teaches you a lot about some egyptian thriller. i have been erodes the world as it is. and of course i have to make a
book about trumps america. but i have a have a ton of other books. james patterson is one of my favorite authors. i also read bill clinton's book the day it came out. i read everything. including a light romance to escape the world. book tv wants to know what you're reading. or on facebook. book tv television for serious readers. [inaudible conversations] thank you for coming to the wh